Flexibility in lightweight construction
The National Composites Centre (NCC) in Bristol, UK has expanded its TechCenter with a new KraussMaffei RimStar Compact 4/4/4 mixing and metering machine. The system is equipped with two mixing heads, enabling it to process both epoxy resin and polyurethane in high-pressure resin transfer molding (HP-RTM).
“High-pressure injection using the RimStar Compact allows us to process fast-reacting resin systems. This shortens cycle times, enabling us to produce fiber-reinforced components in large quantities,” explains Wolfgang Hinz, Product and Sales Manager Business Unit Composites and Surfaces at KraussMaffei. “Previously, the HP-RTM process primarily used epoxy resin as the matrix material. Recently, however, an increasing number of components are being made of polyurethane in the HP-RTM (high pressure RTM) process. Because the RimStar Compact 4/4/4 can process both matrix systems, it gives the NCC and its member companies great flexibility for carrying out application-oriented test series.”
In the opinion of the NCC, a critical argument in favor of HP-RTM technology was the fact that KraussMaffei’s experts already have extensive experience in implementing the process in series production. This served as the basis for the highly skilled advice provided to the institute with regard with regard to the design and application options of the metering machine.
Promoting composites industries in the UK
The National Composites Centre opened in 2011 and is a central element of the UK Composites Strategy, an initiative of the UK government to promote the composites industry in the United Kingdom. Implementing innovative technologies is intended to make the UK-based companies more competitive on an international level. Particular focus is on the aviation and aerospace, vehicle manufacturing and renewable energy industries. “The composites market is experiencing pronounced growth in the UK. In vehicle manufacturing, the big OEMs are advancing lightweight construction development and the use of CFRP in structural components. The aviation industry is also very active,” adds Stephen Lambert, Reaction Process Technology Business Manager at KraussMaffei Group UK.
At the NCC, new production methods are being developed for composite materials and advanced into industrial series production. The research is focused on areas including the automated manufacturing of fiber preforms, component manufacturing using autoclaves and compression molding and post-mold processing of the fiber-reinforced components. Furthermore, measurement and inspection systems for visual investigation and thermal and rheological analysis are available. Over 30 industrial companies are now organized as members of the NCC. The total floor space of the institute was expanded to 8500 m². As part of this expansion, the RimStar Compact 4/4/4 was also put into operation. Since then, KraussMaffei has also been a member of the NCC, offering interested companies the opportunity to run tests on-site.